B’nai B’rith International denounces anti-Israel motions authorized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) executive board’s Programme and External Relations Commission. The executive board’s plenary will likely rubberstamp the resolutions, focused on “Occupied Palestine” and education in Gaza, at the close of the board’s session at the end of the week.
In October 2015, the “Occupied Palestine” draft resolution caused a furor with a clause stating that the Western Wall (the Kotel, in Hebrew) was an “integral part” of the Al Aqsa Mosque. The executive board ultimately stepped back from complete moral and historical irrelevance by removing the offensive clause. While this year’s “Occupied Palestine” resolution does not try to go so far as to claim the Kotel as part of Al Aqsa, it repeatedly refers to the plaza containing the Kotel as “Al-Buraq Plaza ‘Western Wall Plaza.’” Putting the Western Wall Plaza in quotation marks (after using the Muslim name for the site) seems to be a disrespectful effort to belittle the Jewish people’s eternal connection to this holy site. Meanwhile, Temple Mount, the single holiest site in Judaism, is referred to only by its Muslim name throughout the resolution.
This session’s “Occupied Palestine” motion expressed disapproval of Israel’s plans for an expanded section at the Kotel for non-Orthodox streams of Judaism who wish to have an egalitarian space for prayers. It also makes the preposterous claim that Israel is “planting fake Jewish graves,” thus “banning” Muslims from using those cemetery plots.
“With this resolution, UNESCO has seemingly lowered itself to the depths of bizarre conspiracy theories,” B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman said.
The “Occupied Palestine” resolution did not pass by consensus. Only the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom voted against it, while 17 countries abstained and 33 countries voted for it, including France, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
“These one-sided resolutions are being used to further the Palestinian narrative, which only prolongs the conflict and which, once again, speaks to the continuing bias of the U.N. and its agencies,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
The resolutions voted on at these UNESCO sessions are damaging to the peace process in the Middle East, and will only further serve to discredit the agency and divert it from its own stated mission.